August 26, 2009
Pakistan-China Land Bridge to Europe
The Pakistan-China rail link envisioned will connect Havelian north of Islamabad, the northern limit of Pakistan's railways, 750 kilometers (approximately 466 miles) to the Chinese border. The railway would roughly follow the Karakorum Highway through territories plagued by separatist violence.
A bigger hurdle may be on China's side as the railway must go through the Khunjerab Pass at 4,693 meters or over 15,000 feet. But China accomplished a similar engineering feat when it built the world's highest railroad - the Qinghai-Tibet passage. To complete the connection to the Chinese railway network will require approximately 350 kilometers or 218 miles of track from Kashgar - the fabled "gateway" to China - to the border.
Pakistan's railways are now connected to Europe through Iran. A freight train carrying 20 containers left Islamabad on August 14 - the inauguration of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul rail service. The train arrived in Turkey yesterday (August 25). With the Pakistan-China border connection, Chinese exporters could use the route as a land bridge for goods from western China as an alternative to loading containers onto ships at Gwadar Port. Such a scenario may explain Beijing's decision to shelve development at Gwadar for the time being.
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